North Korea successfully tested a hydrogen bomb in an underground blast. Kim Jong Un inspected the new hydrogen bomb prior to having it loaded into a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
In the sixth-ever nuclear test conducted by Kim’s regime, the hydrogen bomb caused tremors ten times more powerful than last year’s nuclear test. According to NORSAR, a Norway-based group that monitors nuclear tests, the blast was eight times the power of the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. NORSAR estimated the blast at 120 kilotons. However, South Korea evaluated the same explosive yield at 50 kilotons.
The U.S. Response is Hard to Predict
Although many sanctions have been taken against Kim Jong Un, the effect has failed to make Kim reconsider his nuclear program. While the North Korean citizens are going through a period of mass starvation and a crippling economy, the regime has not changed its position on possessing a weapon capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.
The United States has been sending mixed signals when it comes to dealing with growing threat. The Trump administration is pursuing a “peaceful pressure” strategy to bring North Korea to the discussion table along with their nuclear ambition. However, President Trump’s tweets are clearly going the opposite way stating he is uninterested in dialogue.
South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2017
President Trump will sit with its national security council as well as some economics experts to formulate a response to Pyongyang’s first nuclear test since he took office in January.
That said, the United States will not disclose their actions against North Korea, wishing to keep the element of surprise on their side.
Nevertheless, my assessment is that the United States will enhance its military presence in Japan and South Korea by conducting more joint military exercises. Adding to that, more sanctions will be slapped to Kim Jong Un. It is highly unlikely that the United States will take military actions against North Korea until they can figure out exactly what will be China’s response.
Can North Korea Affect China’s Future?
As for China, Beijing condemned Pyongyang’s test on Sunday.
“We strongly urge (the) North Korea side to face up to the firm will of the international community on the denuclearization of the peninsula, abide by relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council, stop taking wrong actions that exacerbate the situation and are not in its own interest, and return to the track of resolving the issue through dialogue,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Being North Korea’s sole ally put China in a very delicate position. By supporting them, China engages themselves in a possible war with the United States and its allies. Even if troops won’t face each other on the battlefield, the United States could erase its $1.102 trillion—28 percent of the $3.9 trillion in Treasury bills, notes, and bonds held by foreign countries—debt they owe to China, and drastically lower their importation.
By doing so, many U.S. allies would follow their path and China would lose an enormous amount of money in the exportation. The Chinese economy would greatly suffer, and the possible ground war would push Beijing into changing its economy to solely focus on military production.
One option China has it to offer its help in negotiation between North Korea and the United States. China would then remain the world’s largest exporter without having to change its manufacturing toward a military-oriented production, and would benefit from having a part in a peaceful resolution of the growing conflict.
The fact that China wants to see the yuan replace the U.S. dollar also comes into play. By openly supporting North Korea, China is not in a position to influence the economy towards its currency. As long as Beijing will support Kim Jong Un’s regime, the yuan will never become as strong as the U.S. dollar due to the fact that neither the United States nor the European Union will want to adopt a currency that has been constantly feeding one of the world’s worst regime.
China would greatly benefit from remaining neutral and ease tensions by offering to become the mediator. By doing so, China could influence both sides of the table and come out as the biggest winner. Beijing is likely tired of supporting such a regime but at the same time, it wouldn’t be happy to see a united Korea under a large American influence, especially due to the shared border it would have.